The Art of Discovery: Encounters in Literature and Science

The Art of Discovery: Encounters in Literature and Science

The Art of Discovery: Encounters in Literature and Science

The Art of Discovery: Encounters in Literature and Science

Synopsis

Robots, human hybrids and fictional monsters assembled from graveyard body parts by mad scientists have haunted literature for centuries. The frightening but alluring motif highlights a long and complex love affair between literature and science; an affair filled with fascination, commonalities, differences and antagonism. Over the past decades, however, the two cultures have found common ground and interest, giving a momentum to consider the complex intersections in their historical contexts.The Art of Discovery has evolved from this vantage point. Bringing together scholars of literature, natural sciences, and philosophy of science, the anthology spans the 19th and 20th centuries and discusses a range of different entcounters. These include Goethe's theory of colour, Darwin's 'filthy heraldries', Sigrid Undset's usage of biology, and the literary responses to the first man on the moon, Baudelaire's infatuation with magnetism, the robot as a theme in literature, and literature's moral imperative post Hiroshima.The anthology, by internationally renowned scholars, brings new perspectives to the existential, ethical, intellectual and metaphysical implications of the agelong love-hate relationship between the 'two cultures'.

Excerpt

Among the metaphors used to describe the complex and sometimes difficult relationship between literature and science, we find the topographical images of the abyss, the cleft, the labyrinth, all of which call out for building bridges, finding Ariadne’s thread, drawing maps. Shortly before his death in 2002, the paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould proposed a new, feminine metaphor to designate a potentially more productive stage in this fraught relationship, drawn from the art of quilting: “In our increasingly complex and confusing world, we need all the help we can get from each distinct domain of our emotional and intellectual being”, Gould insists. Confronted by such a challenge, “quilting a diverse collection of separate patches into a beautiful and integrated coat of many colors, a garment called wisdom”, offers itself as an appropriate metaphor for a new collaborative relation between the two (Gould 19).

Gould’s image possesses a resonance that becomes all the more pronounced in its relation to other well-known invocations of the quilt metaphor, not least that made by the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their book Mille Plateaux (1980). Here the quilt figures among the duo’s “technological models” used to differentiate between two fundamentally opposed spaces, known as “smooth” and “striated”, or, alternatively, “nomadic” and “sedentary”; “deterritorialised” and “territorialised”. Where the striated space of fabric is constituted by intertwining opposed elements (the warp and the woof), the smooth space of the patchwork quilt “distributes a continuous variation”, “in principle infinite, open, and unlimited in every direction” (Deleuze and Guattari 524–25):

The striated is that which intertwines fixed and variable elements, produces an
order and succession of distinct forms, and organizes horizontal melodic lines
and vertical harmonic planes. The smooth is the continuous variation, continu
ous development of form; it is the fusion of harmony and melody in favour of

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